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Cousins fall not AFL's fault: Demetriou

By Sam Lienert 18/10/2007 07:47:40 PM Comments (0)

Ben Cousins falling "through the cracks" did not undermine the AFL's illicit drugs policy or West Coast's efforts to clean up their culture, league chief executive Andrew Demetriou said.

Demetriou said it was very unlikely that former Eagles skipper Cousins, sacked by the club on Wednesday night after being charged with a drug offence, would be allowed to ever play again.

That will be a topic of discussion at an AFL commission meeting next month, when a decision will also be made on whether to sanction the Eagles.

But the club is unlikely to face punishment, given Demetriou said the AFL had been keeping close tabs on them since they met the commission in April and he supported their handling of Cousins' case and other player disciplinary issues.

"They have made significant progress and have made real attempts to address the culture within this football club," Demetriou told reporters via a teleconference from Paris.

"We've met them on several occasions and we've had regular updates and we're privy to lots of information about the sorts of things they've put in place.

"But again, you can put all the things in place and this can still occur and a young person who's not well can fall within the cracks."

Cousins appeared in the Perth Magistrates Court on a charge of possessing a prohibited drug and another charge of failing to comply with a requirement to undergo a driver assessment.

He was granted a 90-day adjournment so that he could return to a rehabilitation program in the United States, where he spent time earlier this year while on a club-imposed suspension.

Cousins' case has been used by the federal government to back their push for the AFL to toughen its illicit drugs policy.

But Demetriou said he doubted any policy would have prevented the former Eagles skipper following the same path.

"There isn't a policy in the world that guarantees 100 per cent success rate, otherwise we wouldn't have any people who would have substance abuse problems," he said.

"All we have is a policy that endeavours to educate and rehabilitate and change people's behaviour.

"In the main it's been successful, but we've never deluded ourselves that we're (not) going to have some people that fall through the cracks.

"We can't help every person ... I'm not quite sure why the policy is being targeted when, whether Ben Cousins was on a one strike, two strike, three strike policy, or the policy was different, I'm not quite sure whether there would have been a different outcome.

"The fact of the matter is that he's really really ill and he's got a severe problem which may relapse again."

Demetriou said his view and that of the Eagles would not change even if Cousins successfully fought the two charges.

He said the sacking related to an accumulation of events over time, Cousins' failure to live up to clauses in his contract and his failure to cooperate fully with police.

"Really that is just completely unacceptable," Demetriou said.

He also urged parents of AFL draft prospects worried their sons would end up with the Eagles not to assume that Cousins' behaviour reflected the club as a whole.

"The rest of the club and the dealings that we've had and all the updates on the programs that have been implemented and the structures that have been put in place, they've made great progress," he said.

"They are still a very good football club, unfortunately they had a player within their ranks that has fallen through the cracks.

"And in many ways I would encourage any parent to understand that football clubs are very very good environments for young people to be involved in."

Meanwhile, Demetriou was to meet with Nickey Brennan, the president of Ireland's Gaelic Athletic Association, in Paris overnight (AEST) in a first step towards trying to revive the International Rules series.

The series was abandoned indefinitely after Australia's tour of Ireland a year ago, because of Irish anger over on-field violence by Australian players.

Demetriou had intended to stay on in France for Saturday's Rugby World Cup final, but will now fly home sooner to help deal with the fallout from the Cousins saga.

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